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From The Outside Looking In

From The Outside Looking In

Editor Note:- Sometimes, the football fan can be a blinkered creature, our views can become distorted by life long passion or blind hatred, every now and again, we need to listen to the voice of a neutral.

I was recently approached by a young man by the name of Jack Byrne, a Stockport County fan by trade, but a 'long time' admirer of Arsenal Football club.

As Jack begins on the long and arduous road to a career in sports journalism, he asked if he could write a weekly column on Vital Arsenal ....... a view, from the outside looking in.


Supporting two clubs? Can you do it? Well there are no laws against it for a start. However it`s a touchy subject, especially with lower league clubs. I don`t like the people who decide to 'support` Manchester United and Stockport County.

Looking out for results is different though isn`t it? Because how do you class support. You are technically supporting your club if you buy the shirt, because the £40 processed is supporting the club on a daily basis. So do you have to attend games to 'support` the team? Well it all depends doesn`t it?

I`ll introduce myself first, I`m a Stockport County supporter and I run the Vital Stockport County site (take a look sometimes; we`re doing quite well at the moment). Coming from Stockport you can guess it`s in the area of the scum, although we never actually play them. A lot of my mates (I call them mates on Monday-Friday!) 'support` United, will they watch the games on telly so on their level I guess I`m as much as an Arsenal fan as they are United!

So I`ve always liked somebody else to win the title, ABU I like to call it.

However I have had a soft spot for Arsenal for years, I`m not some fully fledged Gooner, but I certainly like sitting down on a Saturday night, watching the highlights on Match of the Day, and then watching all the live games whenever they are on TV.

I`m quite young, 16 in fact, and one day I`d love to do something like Sports Journalism or something. I`ve been running the Vital Stockport site for two years, and I gathered it would be good experience for me to start writing a column elsewhere so it`s not all directed one way.

After the Liverpool game last week I thought "why not Arsenal?". I`ve had a chat with the editor before and although I don`t support them it would be something I would have a good base of knowledge on.

So each week I`ll write a column, kind of "from the outside" sort of view. You could technically call me an armchair, though next year I`d like to see what its like among the Arsenal fans and will be trying for tickets at one of the Northern away games. It`s all good experience.

This season, what to make of it then? Well it started quite badly when you think about it. The Blackburn game, leading away from home, but Blackburn hit back through a lucky equaliser after a Jens mistake and the press are on Arsenal straight away. "Crap in the North", all the usual phrases come out. "Can`t take a physical battle".

But the next 12 games were reeled off, 12 straight wins, a 7-0 win in the Champions League, what followed were draws in the league against Liverpool and United, but its something that Arsenal took. The run continued and Arsenal were first defeated in December, its still extraordinary that the press were questioning the young squad when the first defeat didn`t come until four months of the season had been complete.

However it all fell apart after the horrific Eduardo injury, you look at the points dropped (16) and its just gone. Completely, really it should have been the position were Arsenal could have lost on Sunday and still been three points clear.

Why have Arsenal dropped so many points though?

I think its down to three reasons, the tactics, the injuries and the players - from the outside.

You look at the tactics, something that was successful was the 4-4-1-1 with Hleb playing behind Adebayor. Hleb had the freedom to roam all over the place, he didn`t have to do much defending so at one point he could be on the left, next on the right and then upfront all in the same minute.

It seemed that Arsenal had the right combination too in midfield. You had Fabregas and Rosicky, the creators, and then Flamini and Eboue who can defend but also attack when needed. Flamini has been absolute quality for Arsenal in my view this season, and Wenger should be doing his utmost to keep hold of him, he is the sort of underrated midfielder. Most teams have one, and to me he looks like the leader of the team.

But Arsene suffered injuries, he has lost Rosicky since the end of January, it means that Hleb often has to go out to the left, somewhere he looks uncomfortable.

I could go on for ages, but to me it Van Persie is a total different style of player to Rosicky, and he could not be a direct replacement for Rosicky.

Arsene tried switching to 4-4-2 to accommodate Van Persie coming back into to the team but he just hasn`t looked there to me at all. He`s scored the penalty at Bolton and that`s his only goal in 2008. There just doesn`t seem to be something right with him.

The injuries have of course affected Arsenal, Eduardo, Van Persie, Rosicky, Toure, nearly all the players have had little spells out.

Finally the players. Is it just me or does Eboue look like he is going to mis-kick the ball every time? I don`t see why Arsene has him as a winger when there is somebody like Walcott on the bench. On Sunday Arsene could have easily had Gallas and Toure centre backs, Eboue at right back and Walcott on the wing. Arsene seemed to go the long winded way so he could leave Eboue on the right wing?

Apart from Arsenal`s extraordinary first team its harder for the young players to have an affect. Bendtner for example. You just watch him and he seems the most arrogant player on the pitch, there is just something that I don`t like about him. He seems like a typical stupid English centre forward. You contrast him with Walcott who is energetic, full of pace, always willing and its like - if Walcott was foreign he would be starting every week?!
If Bendtner was English would he have left by now?

There are younger players coming through which now the Premiership has gone Arsene should give a chance to.

It`s Euro 2008 this summer so let the lads get off for a while so they at least have a months break this summer. Give Alexandre Song a game in midfield, give Diaby a game in centre midfield! Give Walcott a game upfront. Just things like that, because other teams are still playing for things, Reading and Derby should be both three points, you`d bank on a point against Sunderland on the last day so Arsenal should have third place covered. Everton at the Emirates would be a good game for the younger lads and it would be good experience. Everton, chasing fourth, will be playing for something, and then when players like Song, Vela, etc.. next season come into the team then they won`t be phased by the big occasion.

I hope you have enjoyed the column, of course you can leave your comments and stuff, and take a few seconds out to check the Vital Stockport County site and see how our promotion bid goes!


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Writer:Jack Byrne
Date:Wednesday April 16 2008
Time: 12:03PM


Good article Jack. Nice to have an outside point of view, and i don't really disagree with anything youve said. I also would like to see the yoingsers being given a run out in the final few PL games, but not at the expense of coming fourth to Liverpool. Don't forget though, its still mathematically possible to finish above CHelski and that would be a reasonable consolation prize after such an up and down season! Good luck to Stockport!
16/04/2008 12:29:00
Thanks Jack. Your use of language marks you out as a prospective journalist right enough. Good luck with that path. Most of the points you make are also expressed and shared by gooners on these pages and the forums. Just a point on the tactics issue. Hleb behind Adebayor worked though not as well as Hleb behind RvP in the opening games of the season. The problem is though that these tactics once identified can be countered. However the absence of players that can vary the tactical options, principally RvP and Rosicky and latterly Eduardo has left us with immature options such as Walcott and Bendtner or functional, but not ultimately, match changing, options like Eboue. Your weekly column is a perspective I, and many others I am sure, will look forward to reading.
16/04/2008 12:30:00
I think this is an excellent idea and Jack seems capable of actually expressing an opinion without espousing the usual crap reeled off of sly sports (ain't Gerrard wonderful, Ronaldo is perfect, JT is a rock etc). On your point on Bendtner, he does carry himself with an arrogance, but I think that makes him a very good player. A lot of people criticise, but he gets involved every time he's on the pitch, which is a tremendous asset for a young player to have. I've often thought a hybrid of Walcott and Bendtner would give you the ideal young footballer. On the evidence of this piece, I don't imagine a career in sports journalism will present you with too many problems. As for Northern away games, message me next season, I might know a guy :-)
Little Dutch
16/04/2008 12:47:00
Cheers Jack. Vast majority of the points you made have been discussed on the VA forums, and they continue to make up the core discussions amongst Gooners. IMHO, Arsenal's slumpt this season has been a result of events far beyond the influence of the club's management: injuries and referee's decisions which I put together in the "unlucky" category although individuals could make cases for other categorizations. As the saying goes, the good vs. the bad decisions by officials usually even themselves out during the course of the season - it has not been the case with us this year - most of them have gone against us: Clichy penalty at Brum, offisdes against Boro, offside against Chel$ki, penalty calls against Pool... Had it been the 50/50 we'd have been in the CL semis + right up there with the Mancs. Injuries have played their part too - players not being given a rest due to lack of personnel and those who were available did not fulfill the high expectations set by the first team with their magnificent 2/3 of the season. Addressing these issues would mean that AW would have to have contingency plans based on assumptions, in the form of a multimilion pound bench (like the ones of Chel$ki, ManU, Liverpool, and sadly, sp*rs) which obviously guarantees nothing. Still if we want to get further next year - we need more quality bodies on the bench and squad.
16/04/2008 13:11:00
Its a good idea, the external point of view. Always interesting to read and this piece is a good start. However, I dont agree with your views on Bendtner - a certain amount of arrogance is good, and in this case, it comes from tremendous self-belief. Bendtner has been an excellent back up striker this season and has progressed well. If Ade were injured, I wouldnt hesitate to start him and he has made an impact often as a sub. Cant ask for much more from a 19 year old in his 1st full fledged season ! I agree with your experimentation idea, though I dont remain optimistic. Wenger had the same opportunity last season and only chose the last game to put 5 kids on the bench against Portsmouth. I would also like to see Theo upfront paired with Bendtner, Song & Diaby in CM.
16/04/2008 13:28:00
Stockport County 2 Rochdale 7 :)
16/04/2008 13:31:00
Good writing. Hope you get your dream of becoming a Journalist - just please, write better than some of the drivel we get from the tabloids these days! And I would have to say - though the Eduardo injury made things a lot worse, I think the FA Cup result at United was what started the decline...
16/04/2008 13:42:00
Good stuff.. and yeah the 4-4-1-1 was successful, but the fact is that injuries prevented us from going down that route again. I'm not too sure whether teams can actually counter that formation.. and I'm pretty sure fatigue played a massive part in our downfall.. you cannot have a squad of 14 fit players in March when you're fighting on 2 fronts. Wenger doesn't trust Walcott to make him start, and it is something that I agree with. Whether Eboue is the replacement is debatable though. I think Wenger will rotate the "squad" now.. and we'll keep going until the end of the season. No pressure now, so I expect at least 3 wins and a draw.
16/04/2008 13:44:00
Wow, you're only 16??? You sound more mature than some of the idiots on skysports. :-) Good piece and as others have said, your observations are very similar to those made by gooners all season long. I too will have to disagree about Bendtner -- he's still only 19. He is arrogant but I don't think he's useless, and he brings a different dimension to Arsenal that we need.
16/04/2008 13:45:00
Promising start there mate. I'm starting to think exactly the same about Bendtner, he has had far too much football this season and you get the impression he aint exactly best mates with the rest of the squad.
16/04/2008 15:55:00
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